How I Paid Off $31,000 Of Student Debt In Only Two Years

Markus Spiske
Markus Spiske

I carried over $31,000 in loan repayment after undergrad. Paying it off took two years, but it was barely dented for the first six months. This was when I realized I had to make some drastic adjustments to ever whittle it down. The rate was not very impressive or efficient, but it helped me differentiate between necessities and luxuries.

Life before and after loans has been pretty stark in contrast. You no longer feel guilty for traveling across the world. You can choose to engage in grown-up sounding pursuits like investing in mutual funds, ETFs, & individual stocks! Saving for a house now just became a reality! You could buy all the fair-trade coffee to your little heart’s extent.

I had to get creative — many of these ideas may not be applicable to you or painfully obvious! Regardless, they’re simple in theory, yet oftentimes overlooked in practice. My first job out of college involved contractual quality assurance work for a large tech company in Cupertino. I could have chosen a position in a cheaper residential market, as in anywhere outside of the Bay Area. However, Silicon Valley was an environment where I knew I would be challenged to grow. The pay was relatively meager for the industry, so I had to get creative and quite shameless!

1. Live at the cheapest residence you can tolerate

Live at home with parents if feasible. However, for the most of us, that’s boring, or not aligned with our goals. I settled down at a room of a house in San Jose, California for a year. The home was owned by a sweet, blissful lady in her 60s. She occasionally made meals for me and rent & utilities came out to only a flat $500/month. Sounds amazing, right? Of course, there was a catch — no overnight guests allowed!

2. Purchase food in bulk

Growing up, I had assumed that Costco was economical only for nuclear families. Breaking it down on paper, it may be profitable for unmarried folks too! Share large consumables — like giant bags of rice — with your roommates, if feasible.

3. Cook your meals whenever possible

A staple I loved in college and early adulthood were egg &
soyrizo tacos. They’re inexpensive, delicious, stupidly easy to cook, and surprisingly healthy! Find your staple. (I make other things too, sometimes..)

Example:

Ultimate Soyrizo Tacos

  • Heat oil
  • Drop soyrizo in skillet, and cook ‘till slightly charred
  • Scramble up some eggs in the same skillet
  • Roast up corn tortillas
  • Huzzah.

Try making something new every week, it’s extremely therapeutic.

4. Only eat out with friends

Don’t feel guilty for eating out with friends & family whenever if the occasion calls for it (celebrations, happy hours, networking, catch-up sessions). Just minimize eating out by yourself. This includes take- out/Munchery/Doordash/UberEats/Caviar, those extra expenses really consume your budget!

5. Avoid consolidation

Loan consolidation combines multiple, disparate loans into one, singular loan usually with a higher interest rate than its smaller counterparts. This may be more convenient in regards to forecasting payoff time and ease of payment. However, most borrowers end up forking more money over in the long-run.

6. Compare & stack up your individual loans

If you have multiple loans, take the annual interest rate for each one and multiply it by the amount owed to get the total yearly interest (TYI). Stack up each TYI with one another and assign your next payment to the loan with the lowest TYI. Repeat your calculations for all additional payments you make.

Example:

• Loan A has 6.5% interest with $7,500 outstanding, amounting to $487.50 TYI.

• Loan B has 4.5% interest with $9,800 outstanding, amounting to $441.00 TYI.

It makes sense to make a payment toward Loan A first at this time, to reduce accrued interest.

7. Leverage your local public transportation network to get around town, if available.

It may feel like a waste of time because driving around is so much more efficient, but you most likely have a phone! The bus commute is the perfect time to listen to podcasts, read e-books, and rekindle old friendships/connections over messages.

8. Embrace minimalism

This might be regarded as a trending fad amongst yuppies, but with all good reason! Minimalism can be succinctly summed into one mantra: Reflect on what you are considering to purchase — if you don’t believe it will contribute to the productivity & overall quality of your life, don’t buy it!

9. Leverage loan forgiveness programs

There are many loan-forgiveness programs floating around, albeit each one has a set of requirements you have to meet. One for the government & non-profit sector. Another one for nursing. Here’s one for teachers!

10. Automate your budget

No one enjoys passive-aggressive notifications/emails from personal finance apps alerting that they are over-budgeting AGAIN this month. Luckily, Personal Capital has been optimized to focus on praise over guilt-tripping as a motivator. Their dynamic graphs & charts featured in the app have helped me determine which areas I’ve been slacking off on maintaining thriftiness.

Credit card interest rates are usually higher than the average student loan: around 14% vs 4–7% respectively. Calculate the total yearly interest of your credit card debt and stack it up against your student loans.

11. Invest in yourself

How much you make can be a hard limitation on how much you can save for loan repayment. When you find some genuine passions and work towards them, you’ll naturally end up earning more in the long run. Most people never accomplish this in their lifetime, and I certainly am still on the journey. To try to hone in towards my passions, I consume knowledge. I pick up and read countless books of any topic that I have the slightest bit of interest in. I’ve gone back community college to expand my programming
knowledge. I leverage online courseware religiously. Learning new things for the sake of personal growth is always a noteworthy investment.

12. Cheaply travel on your vacation

In my opinion, travel (on a budget) is something you should never sacrifice in lieu of saving up to pay for loans. The benefits are immense to the soul and body. The Flight Deal posts travel deals, but they focus more on extreme anomalies.

For example, a buddy and I ventured off to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin, & London round-trip from Los Angeles for only $600 total. Most cities have hostels that run rooms for only $15/night (including free breakfast)! I’m sure there’s countless other ways to accelerate paying off your loans. Share your ideas with others struggling to crawl out of debt, and find out what works out for you! TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

  • http://storylinecreations.wordpress.com bcre8v2

    Some great tips here. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Now I’m sharing this with my college-age son.

  • http://themeraki.me Amy M.

    Thank you thank you for these tips! It’s exactly what I needed right now.

blog comments powered by Disqus